Buddhism with Vietnamese Characteristics, Da Nang

The Buu Dai Son Pagoda (Chùa Bửu Đài Sơn) is one of my favorites in the Da Nang / Hoi An area. It sits facing the sea (my back is to the beach and the East Sea) several kilometers from downtown Da Nang on the seaside road heading to the Son Tra peninsula. Like many Buddhist sites in Southeast Asia, Buu Dai Son is garish and colorful, in this case in a distinctly Vietnamese way. I looked but could not find the date this pagoda was founded or the date its current structures were built, though I have no doubt the buildings are of recent origin. At the same time, there is no question that the designer was inspired by historical sites like the Eastern Guard Tower in Hue and numerous other traditional Vietnamese structures, both religious and secular in origin, scattered throughout the country.

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The Stele Pavilion, Tu Duc’s Tomb, Hue, Vietnam

A few tree and shrub species shed their leaves in what passes for winter in central Vietnam. This photo was shot in December of 2018, and I like how the barren trees in the foreground set off the Stele Pavilion in the center of the image. Another shot of the stele close up appears in my previous post. This structure is one of the key buildings in the Tu Duc Mausoleum area. There is a massive stone tablet inside, on which the emperor’s biography is written. Although Tu Duc had many wives, he was also childless; a case of smallpox left him impotent. In the event, the biography inscribed on the stele was written by Tu Duc himself and this was considered a bad omen for the dynasty. After Tu Duc’s death in 1883, the Nguyen throne passed to an adopted son.

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The Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, Hue

The season is right, but this photo of a shrine within the mausoleum’s extensive grounds was actually taken four years ago in 2018 – wow, time flies. The compound where the Nguyen dynasty emperor Tu Duc (1848-1883) was laid to rest is one of several imperial mausoleums surrounding Hue, the only one I have visited to date. I took a series of photos that have been sitting in a file directory ever since. Taking a look now.

Hue was the capital city of the Nguyen dynasty, Vietnam’s final dynasty that came to an end in 1945 when Emperor Bao Dai abdicated. The city is a fascinating place featuring cultural, historical and religious sites, great food, an incomprehensible local dialect, and photo opportunities at every turn. More visits to Hue are in order.

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Colonial-style Home, New England

The area around Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, is affluent and appealing. If you like, as I do, various flavors of American colonial style architecture floating in a rich broth – play on words intended – of manicured small town landscapes and privileged academia, you’ll enjoy a visit to Smith. Some of the buildings and homes are historic sites that were actually built during the colonial era. Others are relatively new structures, like the home pictured here, which apparently was built in the second half of the previous century.

I visited Northampton on a very gray, rainy day; travelers cannot be picky. The heavy overcast creates soft, but very saturated, colors. Working in this kind of light is challenging, and I enjoy it. I am a fan of doors and entrance ways as subjects; this image is an example.

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South Station, Boston

South Station at the intersection of South St. and Atlantic Ave is one of Boston’s many landmark buildings. I took several photos that show more of the building, but none of them are worth posting, so I stuck with this image of the main entrance to the station. The entrance way today looks much as it did when South Station first opened in 1899. Completing this representation of urban America in 2022 is the ubiquitous homeless person with her worldly goods on a cart to the left of the center entrance. In a country as rich as the United States, there is just no excuse for the legions of indigent homeless trying to eke out an existence in our cities. You are a disgrace, America.

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The Old State House, Boston

I returned to Vietnam last week from a one month visit to the United States, my first trip in three years. It was great to see family and friends in Petaluma, California, Boston and Amherst, Massachusetts, New York City, Baltimore, and the Denver area. That said, and while the US is the country of my birth, I am glad I no longer live there. The United States has too much tension, anxiety, and simmering anger for my taste. Life where I am in Vietnam is a good deal more relaxed and laid back.

Boston’s Old State House served as the seat of the Massachusetts colonial government from 1713 to 1776 and, after the American revolution, was the seat of the state government until 1798. Now hemmed in by office towers in downtown Boston, this national and Boston historic landmark is the city’s oldest surviving public building.

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